Since their birth in 1996, Karabo and Kamohelo Mahlaba have been each other’s best friends. They played together, cried together and now they also farm together in the Free State town of Reitz.
As twins, their bond is as strong as their passion for agriculture and they look forward to carrying the Mahlaba farming legacy forward. The 24-year-olds can be found toiling away on the 300-hectare farm, Hoekieplaas, owned by their 73-year-old grandfather, Samson. Hoekieplaas is a commercial agribusiness producing grain and soybeans and breeding livestock.
Like most twins, the Mahlaba brothers shared almost everything. From a womb to rooms, clothes and friends. Years later, in the true spirit of twinsies they now also share a love of farming.
For Kamohelo his relationship with KARABO runs so deep that HIS BROTHER’S MERE absence makes him feel incomplete.
“As children we did everything together,” he says. “Now that we are working together, I’d feel like there’s something missing if he’s not here next to me. There could be 15 of us. It doesn’t matter, as long as he’s missing, there’s a gap.”
Thanks to his interest in technology and background of studying information technology, Kamohelo’s responsibilities on the farm include farming technology, machinery and maintenance. On the other hand, Karabo, as an agricultural graduate, acts as their grandfathers’ right-hand man.
Since their early teens, the Mahlaba twins have been working alongside their grandfather. Over weekends and school holidays they would go with him to his place of work, Fick en Seuns Boerdery, where he toiled as a labourer.
Grandfather Samson spent more than 50 years working for the well-known Fick farming family, while dreaming of running his own commercial farm one day. That dream manifested in 2015 when he got access to land – and he is still being supported by Coenraad Fick.
Together with his fervent grandsons, they are scaling the family farm to new heights. Karabo says he taught them responsibility at a very young age. “You understand the importance of your daily duties because at the end of the day the animals all depend on you, so it teaches you responsibility.”
“I would never trade the lessons that I have learned for anything. It’s actually really fun working the land.” – KARABO MAHLABA
Karabo has loved every moment of toiling the land with his grandfather.
“The guy is very experienced,” he says. “I have learned a lot from him. Everything I know is because of him. Eish, but sometimes he can be very strict. It’s no games with him.”
Working with nature and animals is one of the most interesting things one could do, Kamohelo states. He says what he loves about agriculture is working with people and doing what he considers to be the best job in the world.
“Ooh, don’t get me started on those tractors. I am obsessed with driving tractors. It’s my favourite thing to do,” he laughs.
While his brother appreciates the growing process of both animals and crops, it is the nature of this noble profession that touches Karabo. He says it has taught him a lot about work ethics. He believes farming has shaped both his life and personality.
“I would never trade the lessons that I have learned for anything. It’s actually really fun working the land,” he says.
Apart from working alongside his brother and grandfather, Karabo also forms part of the Grain Farmer Development Association where he works as a development coordinator.
The non-profit association deals with the establishment and development of up-and-coming grain farmers of previously disadvantaged backgrounds. Karabo joined in 2019 facilitating funds and monitoring and evaluating the progress of projects within the Free State.
According to Kamohelo, they have learned a lot from their grandfather about doing business and how to treat people.
“Baba taught me that taking care of people close to me and working with me is a must. But running a business, sometimes you need to be selfish. You can’t go around pleasing everyone. Businesspeople only do things that will benefit their vision. If something does not contribute to my dream, then I leave it because I learned from the best.”
Working together has made the twins a formidable team. Together they are fuelled by passion, vision and their grandfather’s five decades worth of farming experience, which he gladly shares with them.
Kamohelo says, “When it comes to agriculture, the experience he (Karabo) has, is the experience I have.
“Me and my brother, we are a strong team, and we know a lot about agriculture. I believe that we can build an empire and further the Mahlaba legacy. Our vision is to have our own land one day and push ourselves to new heights as young South African farmers. Watch the space, it’s coming.”
Samson Mahlaba is featured in “Vir die liefde van die land”, a new TV show presented by Food For Mzansi in collaboration with the VKB Group. New episodes air every Thursday night at 18:00 on VIA, DStv channel 147. You could still catch the Mahlaba episode in repeats, on Sundays at 20:00, Saturdays at 10:30 and Mondays at 08:00.